The Litter Box: Reviewing the Aberdeen/Rochester Experiment
As I sit here looking at the District 4 2A Soccer bracket I realize I am looking at 2 things that could have never have happened over the past 2 seasons. Aberdeen and Rochester BOTH qualified for the District Tournament and either one of them was higher than a 4 seed. Now technically they could have received a higher seed had the other’s agreed on an exceptional season but even a 19-1 Aberdeen Boys Basketball season did not rise to the level of exceptional in the eyes of the Evco 2A AD’s.
Let’s step back and examine what happened. For those who don’t know what we’re talking about, 3 years ago heading into the 2014-15 league cycle both Aberdeen and Rochester elected to play in the 1A Evco league despite being 2A schools and having a 2A Evco league available to play in with Centralia, Black Hills, WF West and Tumwater. The decision was made admittedly for the football team’s only. Neither Aberdeen or Rochester wanted to play Tumwater’s long-time successful football program so they elected to play at the 1A level.
This created huge gaps in game schedules for the Evco 2A and WF West ended up with a bye, Tumwater had a trip to Idaho and Yakima and the other had trips to Port Angeles, Sequim, North Kitsap and other long traveling road games. But despite not playing in the 2A league the Evco 2A by WIAA rules had to create a pathway for both Aberdeen and Rochester to have a chance at the play-offs. This was to be determined by the Evco 2A AD’s and they were not in a generous mood and then the GSHL 2A got into the act in the 2nd year and made it even more difficult.
I should say that not only did Aberdeen and Rochester choose to play football at the 1A level, they chose to play all sports at the 1A level. This meant that all sports would have to go through a more rigorous path just to get into the district tournament.
Here were some of the rules that were put in place for Aberdeen and Rochester to advance to the District Tournament. 1st both schools could NOT advance. So the head-to-head match-ups for Aberdeen and Rochester in all sports was literally a loser out game.Second the schools had to win 75% of their league games and then 100% of their non-league games of 2A or higher opponents. If they met the criteria they would then have to play a “play-in” game with the 4th place Evco team.
In the 1st year a clearly better Aberdeen girls soccer team had to play a Centralia team that was on like a 20-game losing streak. Aberdeen won a tight contest on a rainy and cold night but lost one of the better players to an injury in that game and qualified as the 4th seed. This means they had to play the #1 seed from the GSHL 2A on the road to open the District Tournament.
By the way the Rochester girls who played that year were eliminated from post-season play because they lost to Aberdeen but were a very good team. Had they been in the Evco 2A no doubt they would have been at least 4th and Aberdeen could have challenged for the Championship but certainly would have finished 3rd or higher.
In another game that year the Aberdeen boys basketball team at 19-1 had to play an 0-20 WF West team just to get in the District Tournament. When they did win and by the way they had to travel to WF West they then won the honor of facing the #1 ranked team in the State, Mark Morris in their District opener. It was this match-up that then got the GSHL’s attention and they would weigh in going into 2015.
In 2015 the GSHL was not happy having their #1 seeds play a much stronger team than what a #4 seed should be so they required a 2nd play-in game. This meant in 2015 if you were Aberdeen or Rochester just to get into the District Tournament you still had to meet all the original league criteria, play a play-in game with the 4th place Evco 2A team regardless of records and now would have to play the 5th place GSHL 2A team in a loser out game just to get in as the 4th seed.
There were complaints of fairness from the fans and parents of Aberdeen and Rochester but the Evco 2A would fire back with the fairness of making this decision rather late in the process hanging them out to dry as far as trying to find games to fill their schedules and forcing the additional costs of much further commutes for games. Additionally, the Evco 2A lost patience with the 2 schools after formulating football schedules that would have eliminated them from playing Tumwater and had schedules virtually identical to what they ended up playing anyway all over football concerns.
I know ESN was hard on both Aberdeen and Rochester for this decision and we stand by those criticism’s because it was based on emotion and what was best for football while throwing every single other sport under the bus. It’s not like those seniors and juniors will ever get their chance top compete fairly back again, those years are lost.
Both Aberdeen and Rochester are back where they belong in the 2A Evco and now all those nonsensical play-in games and rules are gone. Additionally, Rochester who was still concerned about playing Tumwater in football decided ahead of time they were not going to play them. They wanted to play a team they could compete with and frankly so did Tumwater. Knowing a 50+-0 outcome is highly likely serves no purpose for either team so before the season the league as a whole agreed and allowed Rochester to schedule an opponent they felt they could compete with and Tumwater found another competitive opponent. Ironically that was Steilacoom who has handed Tiumwater their only defeat of the season. Rochester who went 0-9 played Elma that week and lost 50-36 in a good game that saw the Eagles pull away late.
The Evco 2A football standings were not decided by wins this season as the game was not a forfeit, it was based on losses. This way Tumwater wasn’t handed a win and the league remained fair to all. Tumwater won the league based on 0 league losses, WF West was 2nd with 1 loss and Black Hills 3rd with 2 losses.
So is there anything positive that can be taken from this “experiment”? I think yes is the answer. The lesson’s learned are before making decisions of this nature a thorough vetting of the true consequences needs to be looked at with input from your coaches. Had this happened, and we know it didn’t, coaches from other sports likely would have raised several questions on how this was going to impact their sport, teams and kids.
Aberdeen and Rochester could have also simply forfeited the games in football that they didn’t want to play such as several teams have done that were supposed to play Arch Bishop Murphy this season. That wasn’t a unique case as Rainer, a 2B school, forfeited their final game of the season against 2A Washougal depsite qualifying for the @B crossovers with a 3 seed. The Mounties only have about 19 players and literally would have had 14 available for this non-league game so they forfeited to avoid any further poitential injuries. So forfeiting games is an option.
However as witnessed by this season, forfeiting wasn’t a necessary evil as the AD’s got together and logically figured out the issue based on discussion, negotiation and compromise. The result? A fair concern raised by Rochester was accepted by the league and a fair solution was worked out to benefit kids. The rest of the sports are on equal footing and guess what? The pay-off is exactly what began last Saturday, 2 teams both Aberdeen and Rochester who earned the right to play in the District Tournament are getting that right based on their performance in the Evco 2A.
Congratulations to all the Evco 2A athletic directors for working together creating an atmosphere for bettering everyone and bringing the “Just Play Fair” monicker of the WIAA to the Evergreen 2A League because the last 2 seasons were anything but fair.
That’s it for me, remember Hugs not Drugs and get ready for a crazy Post-Season no matter what sport you follow this is gonna be fun!